Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Press Releases
Cervená Barva Press is pleased to announce the publication of “A Palace of Strangers Is No City” by Millikin University professor Stephen Frech. 

“A Palace of Strangers Is No City” tells the story of two lovers on either side of an occupied city.  The male character, having narrowly escaped the random police arrests, is now officially a fugitive and decides to flee to his fiancée’s house by going through Old Town.  That medieval city center, with its tangle of streets, becomes the primary setting of the story and the meditative landscape of the character’s flight.  Full of questions about whom to trust and what to believe, the sequence asks these larger questions: How do we know what’s real? What recourse do we have when we feel isolated from the world around us? Where and to whom do we go to feel safe? 

“Ultimately, the book is a love story, not in the naïve belief that love can answer all these questions, but in the hopes that love can provide solace and rest in our efforts to sort them out,” remarked Frech.

“Stephen Frech in his sequence of prose poems called ‘A Palace of Strangers Is No City’ gives us a Kafkaesque world, signaled by the very first poem that ends with the frightening uncertainty of whether an unknown ‘you’ is having a carrousel maker’s dream, or whether the carrousel maker is having a dream of the ‘you,’” commented Peter Johnson, Laughlin award-winning poet and professor at Providence College. “There are of course many fine works that have dealt with imaginary and oppressive landscapes, but what makes Frech’s book wonderfully creepy is that the oppression is so deeply existential. […] Another prose sequence, Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’ comes to mind, and with Frech’s mastery of the prose poem, it’s not an exaggeration to say ‘A Palace of Strangers Is No City’ ranks with that masterpiece,” he concluded. 

“‘A Palace of Strangers Is No City’ is a one-of-a-kind experience.  In just twenty-two elegant pages it contains an epic journey across an imagined city.  The happenings in this city are surreal, ominous, funny and vivid.  The circumstances may be dreamlike, but the longing and the wisdom are entirely real,” said John Dalton, author of “Heaven Lake.”

The book has been identified as a finalist for the international Italo Calvino Prize.

Frech will be a featured speaker at the Midwest Writing Center's David R. Collins Writers Conference, to be held June 23-25 in Davenport, Iowa. He will give a presentation of his work on June 24. He is also scheduled to give a reading in the Netherlands on August 6. 

Frech has published three volumes of poetry: “Toward Evening and the Day Far Spent” (Kent State University Press) won the 1995 Wick Poetry Chapbook Contest, “If Not For These Wrinkles of Darkness” won the White Pine Press Poetry Prize, published in 2001, and “The Dark Villages of Childhood” won the 2008 Mississippi Valley Poetry Chapbook Prize.  He has received the Elliston Poetry Writing Fellowship, the Milton Center Post-Graduate Writing Fellowship, and grants from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council.  

He is founder and editor of Oneiros Press, the publisher of limited edition, letterpress poetry broadsides.  Oneiros broadsides have been purchased by special collections libraries around the world, among them the Newberry Library (Chicago), the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the University of Amsterdam Print Collection.

A graduate of Northwestern University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Cincinnati, Frech currently serves as an associate professor of English at Millikin.

For more information on the publication or to order a copy, contact Gloria Mindock at or visit
Skip navigation links
Press Releases

Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL